From Emma Liddle
I grew up in a home that prayed.
My mom prayed for me every day before I went to the bus stop for school. My dad prayed before every meal. We prayed before we went to bed. It was what we did. And it was a good practice for me to get into. It was good to be in a home where prayer was important, where we talked to God, even as children.
And I knew about prayer.
I remember being in Sunday school, and having my teacher (fun fact: his name was Mr. Wombat, which is awesome) tell us that when we pray, we bow our heads and fold our hands because we need to make ourselves small, because we need to show respect to God. Prayer is not about us, but about God and how big he is.
There’s nothing wrong with this, technically. It’s not great to be in the practice of praying like: “Hi God. So, I could talk about how great you are, but I’m actually more interested in me and how awesome I am. So that’s what’s on the table for today. Me, me, me.” I don’t recommend this kind of prayer life.
But I also don’t recommend the kind of prayer life that removes the self from the act of prayer. And I think I was kind of in the habit of doing that. I think I was in the habit of removing myself from prayer, and in doing so, attempting to hold onto my life and my desires, playing a weird kind of nihilistic game of keep-away with God.
It looks kind of like this:
“Dear God: You are an awesome and mighty God. Thank you for [insert: Jesus, my husband, BBQ from BT’s Smokehouse, a roof over my head, nature’s beauty, mp3’s, etc.]. I have needs and desires, I have concerns and sometimes everything looks like it’s terrible, and stuff needs to get fixed… Okay, thanks, Amen.”*
*Subtext: “It looks like you’re not very interested in those last few things, and you might not do much about them anyway, so I won’t bother you with that, and just hold onto them.”
Ostensibly, this was me-not-making-it-about-me. Really, it was me being afraid and distrustful.
I heart C.S. Lewis, and this week was the 50th anniversary of his death, so I was thinking about him this week anyway, and figured he might have something to say about our message series theme of Courage, and he did. (Of course, right? See above quote-pic). And I think this quote has a lot to do with my prayer life as it was: I probably would say I trusted God, and that it’s good to surrender things to him, but when it came to prayer, which is where I would put these things into practice, where I’d be tested on whether or not I could do that, practice those essential virtues of trusting God, accepting his grace, and surrendering to him, I’d spiritually balk.
But, as it happens, out of desperation, I did ask this from God: “I want things to change. Something has to change.” And this, at least, was answered.
God pushed me into a few situations where I had to put those virtues to the test, and the only way through that was to pray courageously: I had to surrender people I love, all kinds of dreams for the future, security and certainty; essentially, I had to let go of my death-grip on my life.
And this, as it turns out, requires courage. I had to step up, become active and actively pursue God, and that made prayer about me. To grab another C.S. Lewis quote:
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.
And that’s the way God wants it. He doesn’t need us, and our prayers don’t change him. I know from the message on Sunday that the Bible tells us that God changed his mind because of Joshua’s prayer, but this step, Joshua’s virtuous trust in God and his power didn’t make God more powerful. But God made the sun stand still because Joshua’s virtues were put to the test, and he prayed courageously. It was about Joshua, not about God.
We would all do well to follow Joshua’s lead.
Praying Unprecedented (For You) Prayers
Take the next step in your prayer life. Step One. Regularly ask God to do for you what you’ve already seen him do in your life. Step Two: Regularly ask God to do for you what you’ve already seen him do in other people’s lives. Step Three: Regularly ask God to do for you what you’ve never seen him do for anyone—but have heard. Step Four: Regularly ask God to do for you things you’ve never seen or heard of before. Nothing is impossible with God.
Where are you in your prayer journey? What’s the next level for you?
Living an Unprecedented (For You) Life
In what area of your life are you deliberately and knowingly disobeying the Lord? Are you planning on continuing that disobedience? Why? In what area of your life are you accidentally and unknowingly disobeying the Lord? Hint: Ask God to reveal these areas, otherwise you won’t know. Have you like Joshua determined to obey everything the Lord commands to the best of your knowledge and to the best of you ability? If so, when? If not, why not?
What are you afraid of? The enemy? Commitment? Rejection? What fears are holding you back from pursuing the life God is calling you to live?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be terrified for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Join us at St. Paul’s on December 14th from 9-11 am for our first Women’s Christmas Cookie Swap!
If you like to bake or eat Christmas cookies (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), come enjoy a morning of cookie swapping, coffee drinking, and holiday de-compressing. Bring a dozen of your favorite cookies (baked, bought, or stolen) to share and when all is said and done everyone will go home with new cookies of all different shapes and sizes to enjoy throughout the holidays.
So join us at St. Paul’s on Saturday December 14th from 9-11 am for a great morning of snacking, chatting, and cookie swapping and let’s show the men that they aren’t the only ones who can have great events!
This is an unprecedented event—it really happened and nothing like it has happened before or since.
This is an unprecedented prayer—Joshua boldly asks for something to happen that has never happened before.
And this is an unprecedented person—Joshua never knowingly disobeys the Lord and is never afraid of anyone. And God honors the courageous man and prayer by making the sun stand still.
*66 words for those counting
On Sunday, November 24th we’re going to have a potluck after church!
You can help us by bringing a main dish, side dish, salad, and/or dessert. But equally important: bring yourself! Get to know the St. Paul’s community better, or take advantage of the opportunity to catch up with old friends over some good food!
We hope you will join us!